Shaun Shivers and Xavier Williams have been best friends since they first started playing football for the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes when they were five years old.
So playful trash talk has long been a part of their daily banter and something that has evolved into something even funnier since Shivers, a 5-8, 190-pound four-star running back, committed to Auburn 14 months ago and Williams, a 6-1, 190-pound four-star receiver, committed to Alabama last January.
“I was at the game, and I FaceTimed him when there was 20 seconds left in the game,” Shivers said of the Tigers’ 26-14 win over the Tide at Auburn on Nov. 25, which knocked Alabama out of the SEC title game. “I was like, ‘I told you bro!’ He was like ‘Yeah. I got that.’ ”
Said Williams of the trash talk between friends: “It’s an everyday thing. If he’s running faster than me on a play, I won’t let him outplay me on another play. Every day, we get into little friendly arguments like that.”
On Dec. 20, the first day of the first early signing period for college football, Shivers will sign with Auburn and Williams with Alabama, finally officially making them rivals. But before then, there will be one more opportunity for them to be on the same side: Saturday’s Class 3A state championship game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
After falling to four-time defending champion Jacksonville Trinity Christian 24-13 in last year’s title game, the Lions (10-2) head into Saturday morning’s 10 a.m. kickoff as favorites to beat West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy (10-1), a team it beat 30-13 in the second round of last year’s playoffs.
For Williams and Shivers, two of the most electrifying weapons in the country, a victory would not only be the crowning achievement of their high school careers, but it would deliver Chaminade it first state title since 2005 and end an amazing turnaround from when they were 4-6 as freshmen.
“This has been the main goal for me since right after last year’s state title game,” said Williams, who leads the Lions with 38 catches for 698 yards and nine touchdowns receiving. “As soon as that clock hit :00, I knew where I was going to be. We’re kind of excited, but we really want to finish the job this year. I don’t think it’s hit me yet that this is going to be my last game as a Lion, but hopefully everything plays out well for me and my team.”
The biggest difference for the Lions heading into this year’s title game compared with last year, Williams said, is health. He was dealing with both a turf toe injury and a strained back. Shivers, meanwhile, had a shoulder injury he aggravated in the title game shortly after busting an 80-yard touchdown run on the game’s first play.
“That was the biggest thing this year, to try and stay healthy throughout the year because those injuries were lingering injuries for both Shaun and myself,” Williams said. “It was just about taking the right steps throughout the week, icing every day, sitting in ice baths, just recovering and going through rehab better than I did last year, because I didn’t do all that stuff or take it seriously enough last year.”
Said Shivers, who has run for 1,807 yards and 23 touchdowns on 155 carries as a senior: “When we’re healthy, we can’t be beat. Last year, every unit was kind of hurt in the state game. So our pass game was kind of weak. This year, everybody is healthy.”
Defensively, Chaminade has played lights-out over its last six games. Since its 35-20 win over Booker T. Washington on Oct. 13, the Lions have surrendered a total of 22 points and only one offensive touchdown in blowout wins over Doral Academy 41-5, Flanagan 70-0, University School 33-14, Delray American Heritage 38-0, North Palm Beach Benjamin 56-0 and Clearwater Central Catholic 49-3.
“Guys have just been flying around and believing in what we’re doing, just being athletic and fast to the ball,” coach Dameon Jones said. “Honestly, probably at the beginning of the year, we weren’t physical like we needed to be and playing the Miami Centrals, [Plantation] American Heritages of the world, getting punched in the mouth eventually made us start hitting back. Those were two games that helped us.”
Now, all that’s left to do is finish the season with a title.
“It would be a huge accomplishment,” Shivers said. “We came here freshman year and got the program started back up. We’ve built a great program. We’re looking forward to achieving this big accomplishment right here. We’re just ready to get out there and do it. Then I’ll be ready to go head-to-head with Xavier.”
If you go
What: The 55th state football championships.
When, where: Thursday through Saturday. Camping World Stadium, 1 Citrus Bowl Place, Orlando.
Tickets: $12-$17 in advance, $15-$20 at the gate; Parking: $10.
2016 state champions – Class 8A: Miami Southridge; 7A: Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas; 6A: Miami Carol City; 5A: Plantation American Heritage; 4A: Cocoa; 3A: Jacksonville Trinity Christian; 2A: Jacksonville University Christian; 1A: Pahokee.
Thursday’s games – Class 1A: Madison County vs. Blountstown, 1; Class 4A: Cocoa vs. Jacksonville Raines, 7.
Friday’s games – Class 2A: Hialeah Champagnat Catholic vs. Jacksonville University Christian, 10 a.m.; Class 5A: Plantation American Heritage vs. Baker County, 3; Class 6A: Miami Northwestern vs. Seffner Armwood, 8.
Saturday’s games – Class 3A: Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna vs. West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy, 10 a.m.; Class 7A: Venice vs. St. John’s Bartram Trail, 3; Class 8A: Delray Beach Atlantic vs. Orlando Dr. Phillips, 8.
CLASS 3A – CHAMINADE (10-2) vs. OXBRIDGE (10-1)
Coaches – CM: Dameon Jones (2nd year at CM, 10th overall, 81-20); OXB: Brendan Kent (2nd year, 20-3).
How they got here – CM: d. Delray American Heritage 38-0; Palm Beach Benjamin 56-0; Clearwater Central Catholic 49-3; OXB: d. West Palm Beach Kings Academy 42-7; Melbourne Central Catholic 32-7; Tallahassee FSU 41-0.
Playoff history – CM: 33-23 (won state titles in 2003 and 2005); OXB: 5-2 (first state appearance).
Probable offensive starters – CM: LT Tarique Livingston, 5-11, 255, Sr.; LG Davaon Hawkins, 6-4, 270, Sr.; C Sebastian Sainterling, 6-3, 325, Sr.; RG Jimmy Nixon, 6-3, 255, Jr.; RT Willie Moise, 6-4, 260, So.; X Xavier Williams, 6-1, 205, Sr.; FB Thomas Bradshaw, 5-11, 215, Sr.; Y Akeem Hayes, 5-9, 167, Sr.; Z Marvin Alexander, 6-3, 189, Sr.; RB Shaun Shivers, 5-8, 190, Sr.; QB Daelen Menard, 5-11, 175, Jr.; K Daniel Longman, 6-2, 180, Sr.; OXB: QB Gio Richardson, 6-1, 195, Jr.; RB James Meeks, 5-10, 170, Jr.; WR Keidron Smith, 6-3, 183, Sr.; WR De’John King, 5-7, 154, Sr.; WR Jordan Cash, 5-8, 140, So.; TE Herman McCray, 6-3, 229, Sr.; LT Romello Tarver, 6-4, 245, Sr.; LG Mickey Murdock-Daniels, 6-0, 277, Sr.; C Eddie Lanham, 5-10, 308, Sr.; RG Devyn Pence, 6-3, 330, Sr.; RT Da’Quan Thomas, 6-3, 290, Jr.; K Yonathan Rodriguez, 5-7, 140, So.
Probable defensive starters – CM: DE Carlton Williams, 5-11, 215, Sr.; DT Corey Prince, 5-10, 270, Sr.; DT Davaon Hawkins, 6-4, 270, Sr.; DE Zachary Dixon, 6-1, 210, Sr.; LB Keontra Smith, 6-0, 205, Jr.; LB Jake Hoffman, 5-11, 189, Jr.; CB James Williams, 6-0, 170, Jr.; CB Te’Cory Couch, 6-0, 170, Jr.; FS Dedrick Stanley, 5-9, 175, So.; SS Ahmaud Jordan, 5-10, 205, Jr.; Star Justinn Richardson, 6-1, 190, Sr.; P Daniel Longman, 6-2, 180, Sr.; OXB: DE Herman McCray, 6-3, 229, Sr.; DT Brandon Hudgins, 6-0, 270, Jr.; DT Derrick Wells, 5-11, 261, Jr.; DE Jamian Lovett, 6-1, 200, Sr.; LB Dorian Jones, 6-0, 215, Jr.; LB Kyle Vanputtenvink, 6-0, 220, Jr.; NB Jason McCleod, 5-9, 171, Sr.; DB Josh Pierre-Louis, 5-11, 152, So.; DB Keidron Smith, 6-3, 183, Sr.; FS V’Lique Carter, 5-11, 162, Sr.; SS C.J. Smith, 6-4, 196, Sr.; P Gio Richardson, 6-1, 195, Jr.